Entering the game without Tanner Groves — its leading scorer and rebounder — as well as Jacob Groves and Bijan Cortes due to health and safety protocols, Oklahoma knew it would have to rely on its defensive intensity to open the new year on a high note. That’s exactly what happened to open up the game, as OU held the Wildcats to 22 points on 32 percent shooting while forcing nine turnovers. However, K-State would catch fire in the second half, and the Sooners would need four clutch free throws from Umoja Gibson to pull it out in the end.
Offensively, Elijah Harkless carried the torch for the Sooners, scoring 21 points on 7-12 shooting and hitting all four of his three-point attempts. After Kansas State was able to tie the game at 65 in the closing moments, Harkless took it upon himself to make a play, and make a play he did with just 35 seconds remaining.
The importance of pulling out this win can’t be overstated, as Oklahoma’s upcoming schedule is as challenging as any in the country. Here’s the remainder of OU’s January:
- 1/4 at No. 1 Baylor
- 1/8 vs. No. 8 Iowa State
- 1/11 at No. 17 Texas
- 1/15 at TCU
- 1/18 vs. No. 6 Kansas
- 1/22 vs. No. 1 Baylor
- 1/26 at West Virginia
- 1/29 at No. 11 Auburn (Big 12-SEC Challenge)
If the Sooners can win three of these games, they’ll probably be in okay shape moving forward. Going .500 or better would have me over the moon.